Beyond Life and Death- Twin Peaks Episode 29 (Airdate July 10 1991)
Until "Twin peaks: The Return", I'd almost would have said this episode was possibly the most artistically ambitious hour of Television since the final episode of "The Prisoner". If I had been able to finish this series of posts before the new series premier, the first line of this post probably would have been that. Instead, the final episode of the troubled second season of Twin peaks is a clear sign post of the path ahead for the franchise. Not only do we get Coopers strange journey into the "Black Lodge", but we also get a series of rather dark endings for many of our characters...
It is as if, as soon as Windom takes Annie across that red curtained threshold, the whole series changes. To recap; Ben confronts the Haywoods on Donna's real parentage in an effort to "do good", and has his head bashed into the Haywood mantle piece during a struggle with Doc Haywood. Nadine is struck on the head during the chaos at the roadhouse, and recovers her memories becoming the old Nadine and dooming the chances of an Ed and Norma marriage. Leo is still tied up to a spider cage in the woods. Audrey, Pete and Andrew Packard are exploded by the bomb left in a safety deposit box by Thomas Eckhart. (Audrey whilst performing a peaceful protest at the Bank, another Horne felled by the impulse to do good) Annie and Cooper are left in an uncertain state just after their romance started, with THAT ending putting a darker tinge on the whole affair.
Cooper's journey into he Red Room, often referred to as the Black Lodge although it is unclear if it is or not, is a reflection of the series itself. It is a microcosm of the 28 episodes proceeding it, we see a dream (Cooper Dream from Episode 2) become a real, nightmarish place. We meet Laura, Lealand, The Giant, the Man from another place, Maddy and BOB once again. Laura transforms from the ethereal unknown she starts the series as, and into a terrifying Doppelganger, a mirror of the dual lives she lived. I always found the "evil" reflection of Laura utterly terrifying, from the stillness of her normal dream appearance to a shrieking phantom. While backwards laughter is unnerving at best, backwards screaming is moreso. Cooper finds himself moving from identical room to identical room, with the Man from another place introducing lost characters to him and warning him of Dopplegangers. As Hawk described when the Black Lodge is first mentioned, it is the place where a soul is tested before advancing to a "higher place" the White lodge. If your courage is not pure, you will be utterly destroyed.
So after a TV sensation, 2 years, 29 episodes we are left with this. Cooper escapes with Annie but as he goes to the bathroom to brush his teeth, he looks in the mirror and sees BOB. Ramming his head into the glass, the series ends on his mocking laughter as he says "How's Annie?"
The title says it all, this episode is an ending like death but it is also a crossing. We cross over from the cute, nostalgic, slightly comedic world of Twin Peaks into the deeps shadows that have been hinted at all the way through the series. We follow Cooper into the lodge and like our protagonist, we do not escape. Fire walk with me, and Twin Peaks: The Return are both entities that exist within this shadow realm. Lynch and Frost are almost telling us, the viewers, that our courage was imperfect and we cannot dwell in the perfect Americana that the town of Twin Peaks represents. No cherry pie, cute brunettes and 50's cars for us; we have shadows, fear and ashes.
Laura very much represents this episode, this message and the series, perfectly. When Cooper first sees her in the Lodge she is the Laura he met in his dream. Elegant, she finishes her conversation with him enigmatically. "See you in 25years. Meanwhile..." And she strikes a pose, freezing just like the prom photograph of her that is so famous to not only the characters but the viewers. Later Cooper encounters Laura's "Doppleganger" who starts from the same pose, but her "meanwhile" is a threat. The "good" Laura gives us an image of her alive, the "evil" Laura screams and looks like she wants to eat our souls. She makes no mention of a time period either we are stuck with this Laura till, and if, we find our way out of the shadows.